Flames 7, Canucks 3 post-game embers: Touchdown beats field goal

I mean, that’s pretty much it. There are a couple of Roughnecks games to be played, and they can still make the playoffs, but it will be as a lower seed. And then the only sport left in Calgary will be football.

Hockey is over here. But at least it was a really fun way to go out.

Seasonal milestones everywhere

Mikael Backlund scored his first career hat trick. His 21 goals are a new career high, as are his 46 points. The 81 games he’s played are a career high, too – one more!

Joe Colborne has scored 19 goals, so he’s one off from having a much prettier number. His 44 points are the most he’s scored since his final season in the AJHL, when he put up 90 points over 55 games. Something tells me he’s probably never going to meet that total again, but his previous high was 42 points over 65 games for the Toronto Marlies in 2012-13.

Dougie Hamilton scored a goal and an assist. His 12 goals are a career high, as are his 43 points. It’ll be exciting to see what he can do from the start of next season, when he should be getting top four minutes and first unit power play time from the get-go – and probably excelling with it, now that we’re well past the adjustment period.

Sam Bennett is an 18-18-36 player over 76 games. That’s a very pretty stat line. It sure would be nice to see him hit 20 goals, though, and become the third Flames rookie in a row to do that. Reaching half a point per game would be nice as well, but probably less realistic. How about next year?

Johnny Gaudreau has 78 points in 78 games. Two seasons in, and he’s a point per game player; he’d better not mess it up before the season ends. Actually, 80 is a nice number, let’s get to that. Let’s get greedy, because this is it for a while.

Mark Giordano’s 21 goals and 56 points are career highs. T.J. Brodie’s 45 points are also a career high. Throw Hamilton into the mix, and that’s 144 points between three defencemen. That’s fun. It’d be cool if they can get it up to 150, but that’s probably a goal for next season. (They probably could have with a healthy Brodie year-round, though.)

Three three-point nights

Backlund had a hat trick. Colborne had a goal and two assists. And the less-heralded Matt Stajan had three assists, assisting on two Backlund goals, as well as Deryk Engelland’s.

Backlund’s hat trick came about in beautiful fashion: a power play goal, an even strength goal, and a shorthanded goal to top it all off (he has three on the season, which is tied for sixth overall in the NHL). He’s a player that can be used in all situations. He’s an exemplary defender, he excels at even strength, and hey, he’s got the skill to put pucks in the net, too; that’s just not his main quality. 

He’s basically the perfect utility guy. And should he fall into place as a third line centre, you know if one of the Flames’ top two guys gets hurt, they aren’t screwed, because Backlund can step in and take their place. He’s been over a half a point per game for four seasons now, his numbers are just especially impressive this time around because, for the first time in his career, he’s been healthy all year.

This season was like Backlund’s mainstream coming out party. He’s always been pretty good, but this season was the best he’s ever been. 

Besides, he was an absolute force throughout the night. The dude took it especially hard to both the Oilers and Canucks, and he seems to really hate those two teams more than others. How can one not love him? He was meant to play for this team.

On the other hand, while Colborne is having a great year, the Flames should tread carefully with him. Unlike Backlund, he’s a bit of a late bloomer, and unlike Backlund, he still spent quite a bit of time this season looking like he didn’t even belong at all.

Coincidentally, that seems to have changed since… about the time he was put with Backlund, actually.

Colborne with Backlund Colborne without Backlund Backlund without Colborne
5v5 CF% 49.9 47.3 52.9
5v5 GF% 61.1 45.3 52.6

Make no mistakes about it: Backlund is the one driving the bus. This isn’t necessarily like the way he was with Lance Bouma last season – I wouldn’t at all be shocked to see Colborne score 34 points next year, but Bouma ever reaching those heights again would surprise me – but it is important to keep in mind who’s driving the play, and who’s supporting it.

Also, while Colborne is up to five points on the power play now, it’s important to note he’s played 145:18 minutes on the man advantage. And for the first 80 of those minutes, he didn’t have a single power play point. He was continuously fed chances and nothing materialized for a very long time. Backlund, meanwhile, has played 129:12 on the power play and has nine points.

If Colborne is on the Flames’ first power play unit to start next season, then it means either the Flames haven’t acquired any new offensive personnel, or they simply aren’t willing to try anyone else (a healthy Michael Frolik, perhaps?). He may have gotten better, but those first 80 minutes didn’t happen in a vacuum, and should not – cannot – be discounted.

As for Stajan, he’s sadly overpaid and the most expendable centre on this roster now, but it was nice to see him have a big night. He’s only had one other multi-point game this season: a goal and an assist over the New Jersey Devils back on Nov. 17, 2015. The last time he had a three-point game was on March 22, 2014, when he put up four points in the Flames’ 8-1 win over the Oilers.

Shots, shots, shots

The Flames outshot the Canucks 43-27, and there weren’t really any stragglers on the home side. Monahan led the charge with six, Hamilton had five of his own, and Backlund, Engelland, Jakub Nakladal, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Derek Grant had four apiece. That’s 31 shots between seven players.

Colborne and Bennett both had three each, Gaudreau had two, and Jyrki Jokipakka, Josh Jooris, Drew Shore, and Brandon Bollig all threw in a shot of their own.

So who didn’t get a shot in? Not Stajan, he was busy passing to Backlund all night. Micheal Ferland didn’t, either. And most curious of all: both Giordano and Brodie never got a single puck on net, though they did get an assist each.

Everyone gets to play

Nobody got shortchanged when it came to ice time in the Flames’ final home game of the season. Four defencemen – Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, and Jokipakka – all went over 20 minutes, but Engelland was right behind them with 18:23 played. Nakaldal was left wanting a little more, down at 15:51, though. 

Giordano and Brodie got big minutes on both the power play and penalty kill, while Hamilton got big minutes with the man advantage and decent ones on the kill. Jokipakka and Engelland were used heavily on the kill, but not at all on the power play; the opposite was true for Nakladal.

As for forwards, Monahan and Bennett played the most with 17:56 and 16:12, respectively. Everyone else – including Gaudreau, Backlund, and Colborne – hovered closer to the 14-minute mark. Bollig played the least, and he still got 11:54 in, and that’s with him missing out on five minutes due to fighting.

It was a nice way to say goodbye to the home fans: have everyone participate, everyone on the ice in fair distribution, most of the team getting pucks on net, and a lot of goals. See you in October, Saddledome.

  • Greg

    Nice to send the Canucks into the offseason with that beat down. Hopefully we get a little luck in the draft lottery still as well. Thank goodness Winnipeg pulled out the win too!

  • Oh Backlund: When you knock him down he get the fuck back up again!

    Ever the analytics darling, finally getting the attention he deserves. Hopefully next year he can forgo the introductions, skip the 4th line purgatory, and go back to doing best friend things with Frolik.

  • brodiegio4life

    saw this on mynhltraderumours. “There is talk that the Flames will try to trade for Lightning goalie Ben Bishop this offseason. The Lightning have Andrei Vasilevskiy ready to take over if Bishop is moved. For the Flames to trade for Bishop, it might cost them Sam Bennett.”. All I could do was laugh

  • RedMan

    when the Oilers beat the ‘Nucks, Oiler Nation called it a “statement game”. was this a statement game also?

    hahaha poor Oilers. the only statement is that they are in last place and they still suck!

    these are definitely end of season style games – game structure and D-zone coverage gets a little shaky, but it can be fun to watch.

  • The Fall

    I live in Van, so I see a lot of local press on the Canucks, and trust me the Canucks are in a lot of trouble next year.

    The Sedins’ decline over the second half of the season is startling, and they’ll be 36 years old next season. There is zero on the shelf for them as far as forwards who can step up and fill the points, possession and minutes those two have contributed.

    The best critique I heard from an ex-player close to the team is that the young forwards are soft. They are all complaining about their PP time and none of them show any willingness to sacrifice themselves to make a defensive play. This is why they have the worse record in the third period in the league. And other teams are exploiting it.

    I believe Gio has more points than the entire Canuck blue line. (fact check?)

    Miller will be lucky to play 40 games next year, and he have all seen how an older goalies’ game completely fall offs. Markstrom is showing promise, but young goalies are a crap shoot.

    Benning has shown little ability to address any of their needs. It could be argued that every trade he made (or didn’t make) the last two years has actually sent the franchise back.

    If the Flames get league average goaltending next year, they are back in the mix — not a lock — but in the mix for a playoff spot. Add in the improved Coyotes and the dominant Californian teams, Vancouver will get destroyed in the the division.

    I see them as an easy pick for 30th next year.

    • Jake the Snail

      And it wasn’t that long ago that the Canucks were running roughshod over their division. Edmonton and Calgary were easy wins. I feel for you. Canucks are in the same boat that the Flames were in a few years back when we still had Iginla and Kiprusoff…aging veterans on a team with not much in the prospects cupboard…Canuck’s prospects seem to be better on the surface of what we had back then, but definitely not showing up in results.

      • The Fall

        Agreed. They need to move the twins as soon as possible, but they can’t and won’t.

        This city is an awful sports town and will turn it’s back on the Canucks. The owners are more interested in pretending they can compete to sell corporate tickets and arena side condos.

        My guess is Vancouver will try to make a big splash at the draft or sign a new coach, and market it as the new saviour to convince the local fan base to continue buying tickets. They’ve been doing that for years, while still insisting that Burrows is a top 6 forward…

  • Baalzamon

    That Engelland isn’t the most skilled guy around, but he sure scores some nice goals.

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw Brendan Gaunce on the Canucks powerplay. But then I remembered that they’re the canucks.

    Fun fact: I didn’t realize until last night that Micheal Ferland spells his first name wrong.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I love Mickis, he’s great. But he is not good enough to be a #2C on a championship calibre team. #3C? Absolutely!

    So, the Flames need 2 centres ahead of him on the depth chart when they are ready to go deep in the playoffs in a few years.

    Enter Monahan and Bennett. They can hopefully be championship calibre #1 and #2 centres in a few years. Not necessarily in that order.

    So trading Bennett for Bishop if we get Matthews in the draft doesn’t work for me. Matthews is 2 years behind Sammy B in development and might well not be ready to be a top 2 centre of a Cup winner.

    Plus, the Flames don’t need great goaltending for the next couple of years because they aren’t going to be a great team anyway. Average will do for now. Orts and Ramo (for cheap), or Orts and Mason (via a Wideman trade), or Orts and Elliot.

    • Baalzamon

      I love Mickis, he’s great. But he is not good enough to be a #2C on a championship calibre team.

      Technically that depends on the team. Backlund would have been the #2 for the Blackhawks in any of the last five years, easily.

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        That’s fair. But I think the Flames are projecting to have to make up for a lack of W depth with a lot of C depth.

        So I think the Flames to go deep with Mickis as #2 is unlikely.

        • Baalzamon

          I would agree with that.

          Fortunately, Bennett seems to be in line for a bridge deal (unless he scores like 70 points next year), so spending cap on Backlund likely won’t be a problem.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        You may be right that, “This” Backlund, the 27 year old Backlund could have been the #2 for the Hawks in any of the last 5 years.

        Unfortunately a time machine hasn’t been invented yet that can send “this” Backlund back to 5 years ago.

        That being said I don’t want him as our #2, or at a cap hit of over $3M.

        • Baalzamon

          Nope.

          Patrick Sharp played center for their first cup. Since then, he was moved back to the wing, and their second line center has been a collection of briefly-converted wingers (Kane, Shaw, Saad), overrated depth centermen (Bolland, Handzus), bad temporary acquisitions (Richards, Vermette), and now Artem Anisimov.

          While I may have been exaggerating slightly when I said any of the last five years (it’s more like four), Backlund is, unquestionably, superior to all of the aforementioned players outside Patrick Kane (who was quickly converted back to the wing).

          And before you try to make a case for Brandon Saad, he’s a LW (not a center; there’s a reason that experiment didn’t last long), and he’s also only slightly better than Backlund offensively, while Backlund is ELITE defensively. And has been for four years (while producing at a 0.5 PPG pace for ALL FOUR of those seasons).

          So. Please inform me which of those centers the Blackhawks have used in the last four years is better than Backlund was at the same time.

    • everton fc

      I’d rather move one of Bennett/Matthews to the wing. As for goaltending, let’s see how both Ramo and Gillies (remember him?!) recover. Even a guy like Mason, to dump Wideman… Mason and Ortio would be a solid tandem, me thinks. And I still think going w/Ortio/Ramo works for next season.

      Man, they really need to find a way to cut Wideman loose!

      (Might add that Bennett scored 18 goals w/a meli-melo of linemates, some far inferior to him, which I think says “lots” about his potential to pop 30, next season)

      • FlamesFan1489

        Agreed about Bennett. Reinhart played with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel. Bennett played alot of the year with (some very terrible, some decent) 3rd and 4th liners. Playing with skilled players got the most offense out of him this year. Johnny isn’t PPG with the linemates Bennett got this year.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I don’t know why the Flames would want Bishop and his $6M cap next season. They aren’t a cup contender next season, and have mucho cap concerns already.

  • StarIV

    I really like Bennett’s game. He hasn’t lit up the league, but he does have respectful numbers, very similar to Monahan’s rookie season. I do have to say though, I really like Bennett’s game: he competes all 200 feet of the rink. He made a handful of good defensive plays last night that stood out. Until he establishes himself as a first or second line centre, we don’t know exactly what we have in Bennett. His ceiling could be an elite two-way centre, and I think there’s a good chance we lose a potential Bennett trade, regardless if we draft Matthews, because his value will be perceived less than his potential.

    I’m really looking forward to see Bennett’s progression next season. Let’s hope we win a top 3 pick, solidify our goaltending and hope the core takes a step forward next year.

      • Brodano12

        That’s a problem with almost all 18 year olds. Remember Monahan’s first year? He was just a few months younger than Sam is this year, and he scored 22-12-34 in 81 games. Sam is has 18-18-36 in 77, so he’s already beat Monahan’s production. Keep in mind that he lost 3/4 of a season to surgery last year, and he’s been quite snakebitten all year (he’d have 20+ goals if even just half of his called off goals/posts were to have gone it). His underlying numbers are very strong for a teenager, as he’s already operating at a good 2nd line level both in point production and shot suppression/possession.

        Once Bennett adds 10-20 pounds to his frame, he’s gonna become a tank with the way he hits already. Add that to his elite speed, hands, playmaking and shot, plus his high hockey IQ, and you have a recipe for an elite 2-way centre. Monahan broke out in his 20 year old season – Bennett is still 19. Imo he’s going to be better than Monahan, which will give us 2 1st line centres and a 2nd line centre (Backs). Damn that’s some dope centre depth.

        And even if we win Matthews, we can just shift Bennett to the wing permanently and have even better centre depth!!! Fuck trading Bennett or Monahan for a goalie -it’s wasteful, especially when we have Jon Gillies just 2-3 years away, and Ortio who still looks solid!